Wage struggle continues

published 02-10-2014 10:05, last modified 06-01-2015 15:56
Workers need to earn a wage they can live on. In September 2014, yet another action day was organised to underline the claim of Cambodian textile workers to a living wage.
Wage struggle continues

picture courtesy Heather Stilwell

'The brands whose clothes I sew should be part of the solution. They can't sit back while we lose our income'  - Sean Sophal, seamstress and woman union organiser.

The Cambodia action day has been supported in many countries all over the world. Subsequently, after lengthy negotiations between the government, trade unions and employers, a new minimum wage of US$ 128 per month was announced in mid November. Although this is an increase of 28 percent, it still falls short of the US$ 177 a month that is needed to cover workers' basic needs.

The Clean Clothes Campaign and its allies will increase their efforts in the year to come and push for a minimum wage that is sufficient to live on.


Cambodia_17 Sept logo.jpgBackground

Since late 2013 Cambodian workers have been demanding an increase in the minimum wage in order to take crucial steps towards the payment of a living wage. In early January 2014 wage struggles escalated when police and military cracked down on wage protests and 23 workers were arrested, five died and several others injured. The Cambodian unions are joining together with a demand to raise the minimum wage to US$177 with immediate effect.


National strike

In late December 2013 Cambodian garment workers called a national strike after the government announced a raise of the monthly minimum wage to just US $100. Thousands of workers took to the streets for several days and demanded a monthly minimum wage of at least US $160 (since the summer of 2014 this demand has risen to US$177 to reflect increasing living costs due to steep inflation and survey findings of the Labor Advisory Committee.

After ten days the protest was met with severe violence by the government, killing five people, leaving forty injured and one still missing to date. Twenty-three union activists and workers were arrested and detained for nearly five months. Public gatherings were banned for several months. The constitutional right to form new (factory-level) trade unions was suspended. The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia (GMAC) filed lawsuits against union leaders, holding them responsible for damages, instigating violence and loss of income.



The Clean Clothes Campaign has been working closely with partner organisations in Cambodia as well as other international allies to support the Cambodian workers in their struggle. Together we organised global action days. We urged major brands buying garments in Cambodia to use their leverage with the Cambodian Government to stop the violence, restart the wage negotiations with the full and fair participation of the unions and ensure the factories they are buying from did not penalise those workers who partook in the protests.

We are also demanding that the brands change their purchasing practices so that workers can be paid more.

We contacted the Cambodian government, Cambodian embassies around the world and the EU delegation in Cambodia. 

The Clean Clothes Campaign and its allies will increase their efforts in the year to come and push for a minimum wage that is sufficient to live on.


See also:

Cambodian Garment Workers bring their call for a living wage directly to the brands

Portraits of Cambodian garment workers

"We need US$177"

Labour rights groups condemn violence against garment workers in Cambodia

Arrested union leader Vorn Pao speaks from prison

Crackdown in Cambodia – workers seeking higher wages meet violent repression. (Workers Rights Consortium, march 2014 – PDF)

A week that shook Cambodia - The hope, anger and despair of Cambodian workers after the general strike and violent crackdown

And this webseries, in which young Norwegians go to Cambodia to experience the hardship of garment workers (subtitled in English)